The Lives of Famous Actors

Explore the lives and loves of some of our most fascinating and beloved--and not so beloved--actors and actresses.

The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre

By Stephen D. Youngkin

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"Often typecast as a menacing figure, Peter Lorre achieved Hollywood fame first as a featured player and later as a character actor, trademarking his screen performances with a delicately strung balance between good and evil. His portrayal of the child murderer in Fritz Lang's masterpiece M (1931) catapulted him to international fame. Lang said of Lorre: 'He gave one of the best performances in film history and certainly the best in his life.' Today, the Hungarian-born actor is also recognized for his riveting performances in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and Casablanca (1942). Lorre arrived in America in 1934 expecting to shed his screen image as a villain. He even tried to lose his signature accent, but Hollywood repeatedly cast him as an outsider who hinted at things better left unknown. Seeking greater control over his career, Lorre established his own production company. His unofficial 'graylisting' by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, however, left him with little work.

"He returned to Germany, where he co-authored, directed, and starred in the film Der Verlorene (The Lost One) in 1951. German audiences rejected Lorre's dark vision of their recent past, and the actor returned to America, wearily accepting roles that parodied his sinister movie personality.The first biography of this major actor, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre draws upon more than three hundred interviews, including conversations with directors Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Frank Capra, and Rouben Mamoulian, who speak candidly about Lorre, both the man and the actor."

Also available as an eBook.

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The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage

By Eli Wallach

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"...tells the extraordinary story of Eli Wallach's many years dedicated to his craft. Beginning with his early days in Brooklyn and his college years in Texas, where he dreamed of becoming an actor, this book follows his career as one of the earliest members of the famed Actors Studio and as a Tony Award winner for his work on Broadway. Wallach has worked with such stars as Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, and Henry Fonda, and his many movies include The Magnificent Seven, How the West Was Won, the iconic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and, most recently, Mystic River. For more than fifty years Eli Wallach has held a special place in film and theater, and in a tale rich with anecdotes, wit, and remarkable insight he recounts his magical life in a world unlike any other."

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Angels Along the Way: My Life with Help from Above

By Della Reese with Franklin Lett and Mim Eichler

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"The inspiring autobiography of the beloved singer, actor, and star of the hit television series Touched by an Angel....the story of a remarkable woman whose life has been filled with surprises. Born in the Detroit slums, Deloreese Patricia Early landed her first professional tour at thirteen, singing backup for Mahalia Jackson. By 1953 she was in New York with a recording contract, racking up hits including "In the Still of the Night" and "Don't You Know." The first woman to host The Tonight Show, Della also became the first black woman to host her own nationally syndicated television talk show. Through it all, Della has dealt with personal tragedy, such as the early death of her mother, which caused her to leave college in order to take care of her father. One night, while performing on The Tonight Show, Della suffered a potentially fatal aneurysm. When her doctor told her she had just days to live, she found a new surgeon, who trusted in the Almighty as she did. In 1983, Della's 'partner' above inspired her to become a minister. She has served ever since as the chief leader of a ministry she founded in a Los Angeles community, preaching to a standing-room-only crowd every Sunday. Here is the powerful story of a woman who is quick to credit the many miracles in her life to human 'angels,' as well as her 'partner' above."

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Speedbumps: Flooring it Through Hollywood

By Teri Garr with Henriette Mantel

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"...the popular Oscar- nominated actress muses about movies, men, motherhood, and MS in a book that is both Hollywood hilarious and personally moving.

From Speedbumps:

I was originally up for the principal female role in Young Frankenstein . Mel Brooks was directing. He had just finished Blazing Saddles , and was at the top of the comedy world. Mel had picked me out of five hundred girls, but admitted that he was still trying to convince Madeline Kahn to take the lead role. After I auditioned three times, Madeline finally did decide to take the part of the fianc e. I was crushed. I’d never come so close to getting a major part in a major movie. But then Mel told me that if I came back the next day with a German accent I could read for the part of Inga, Gene Wilder’s buxom lab assistant. A German accent in twenty-four hours? Luckily, I was still on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, and, as fate would have it, Cher’s wig stylist was German. So, I sat in on Cher’s hairstyling session (that gave me hours of study!) and emerged with a perfect German accent when saying, 'Mein Gott, zis vig veighs forty pounds.' That would translate to the script!

"There was one last thing I needed for Inga. Or two, actually. I realized Inga’s part was really all about the boobs, so the next day I went in to the audition wearing a bra stuffed with socks. People pay over five thousand dollars for a boob job today. Mine cost under five dollars at Woolworth’s, and got me the part, my biggest to date. I was thrilled. I’d been chosen by one of the best. My career was finally in motion. I got to thinking that I should have stuffed my bra with socks for every audition."

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I'll Scream Later

By Marlee Matlin

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"From Children of a Lesser God to Dancing with the Stars, Academy Award®–and Golden Globe–winning actress Marlee Matlin shares her incredible life story in a moving and often surprising memoir, I'll Scream Later. More than twenty years after becoming the youngest woman to win a Best Actress Oscar for her stunning performance as Sarah Norman, the pupil-turned-custodian at a school for the Deaf in Children of a Lesser God, Marlee Matlin continues to be an inspirational force of nature.

"A working mother, wife, activist, and role model, she takes readers on the frank and touching journey of her life, from the sudden and permanent loss of her hearing at eighteen months old to the highs and lows of Hollywood, her battles with addiction, and the unexpected challenges of being thrust into the spotlight as an emissary for the Deaf community. With uncompromising honesty, she reveals the shocking incidents of molestation that took her years to reconcile; her passionate and tumultuous relationship with Oscar winner William Hurt; her romances with Rob Lowe, Richard Dean Anderson, and David E. Kelley; and much more. As fresh and invigorating as her memorable television roles on Seinfeld, The West Wing, The L Word, and her dazzling turn on Dancing with the Stars, Marlee Matlin’s self-portrait captures the chutzpah and humor of a celebrated actress who continues to defy all expectations."

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Remarkable Changes: Turning Life's Challenges Into Opportunities

By Jane Seymour and Pamela Patrick Novotny

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"Throughout her celebrated career as an actress, from her film debut as a Bond Girl to her starring role in the beloved television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and during the winding course of her life, Jane Seymour has been a testament to the rewards of embracing life's challenges eagerly and gracefully. Speaking from fifty-two years of experience with both joy and heartache, she firmly believes that 'when we allow ourselves to see all changes as remarkable, some extraordinary things can happen to us.' Rich in lived wisdom, Remarkable Changes revolves around seven signposts of change -- stops we all visit, and perhaps revisit, on the turbulent voyage of life. Jane reflects on the life-altering events of her past and on their universal lessons.

"While candidly recounting her own defining moments of turmoil -- rejection, betrayal, divorce, near bankruptcy, and near-death experiences among them -- she introduces extraordinary men and women who have courageously navigated the most formidable changes, from the loss of a child to sudden blindness, as well as those who have made incredible changes happen against the odds. Drawing on her own life and the shining examples of others -- including her indomitable mother, a native of Holland who was held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II; her husband, James Keach, who restored her faith in love and trust in men after a painful divorce; and her "soul mate," Christopher Reeve, who won her heart in the cult classic Somewhere in Time -- she offers a wealth of guidance for successfully managing any journey of transition."

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The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

By Sidney Poitier

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I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite that contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questing. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set.
--Sidney Poitier

"In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career. His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure--as a man, as a husband and a father, and as an actor.

"Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of self-worth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. 'In the kind of place where I grew up,' recalls Poitier, 'what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters...and that's it.' Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life. Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents. Just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates to who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition. Here is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life."

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Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned

By Alan Alda

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"He's one of America's most recognizable and acclaimed actors--a star on Broadway, an Oscar nominee for The Aviator, and the only person to ever win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing, during his eleven years on M*A*S*H. Now Alan Alda has written a memoir as elegant, funny, and affecting as his greatest performances. 'My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six,' begins Alda's irresistible story. The son of a popular actor and a loving but mentally ill mother, he spent his early childhood backstage in the erotic and comic world of burlesque and went on, after early struggles, to achieve extraordinary success in his profession.

"Yet Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is not a memoir of show-business ups and downs. It is a moving and funny story of a boy growing into a man who then realizes he has only just begun to grow. It is the story of turning points in Alda's life, events that would make him what he is--if only he could survive them. From the moment as a boy when his dead dog is returned from the taxidermist's shop with a hideous expression on his face, and he learns that death can't be undone, to the decades-long effort to find compassion for the mother he lived with but never knew, to his acceptance of his father, both personally and professionally, Alda learns the hard way that change, uncertainty, and transformation are what life is made of, and true happiness is found in embracing them."

His tales continue in Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.

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Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road

By Meinhardt Raabe

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"...one of the last surviving cast members of The Wizard of Oz reveals his life story and shares his memories of making that beloved Hollywood classic. Born into a family of German dairy farmers, Meinhardt Raabe grew up in Farmington, Wisconsin. In 1934, before starting college, he heard about a special 'Midget Village' exhibit at the World's Fair in Chicago. Raabe was hired to participate in that event, followed by years of appearing at other fairs and exhibitions. In 1938, he heard a rumor that MGM was going to make a movie with Judy Garland and 'they wanted as many little people as they could find.' Through an agent, Raabe was cast in the film.

"And what follows is his own account of life as a Munchkin on the set of The Wizard of Oz: enduring tough auditions, watching as the glorious Munchkinland set was built, putting up with long days of rehearsal, being costumed by legendary MGM designer Adrian, hob-nobbing on the set with the stars, witnessing various mishaps during filming, being visited on the set by curious Hollywood royalty such as Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, and much more. Here, too, is Raabe's life after the The Wizard of Oz: His career as an accomplished pilot with the Civil Air Patrol during World War II; more than 30 years as 'Little Oscar,' spokesman for the Oscar Mayer Company; his charity work and his role as advocate and kindred spirit to Little People everywhere. This is a charming, humorous and inspiring memoir..."

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Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art

By Gene Wilder

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"In this personal book from the star of many beloved and classic film comedies -- from The Producers to Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory -- Gene Wilder writes about a side of his life the public hasn't seen on the screen. Kiss Me Like a Stranger is not an autobiography in the usual sense of the word, and it's certainly not another celebrity 'tell-all.' Instead, Wilder has chosen to write about resonant moments in his life, events that led him to an understanding of the art of acting, and -- more important -- to an understanding of how to give love to and receive love from a woman. Wilder writes compellingly about the creative process on stage and screen, and divulges moments from life on the sets of some of the most iconic movies of our time. In this book, he talks about everything from his experiences in psychoanalysis to why he got into acting and later comedy (his first goal was to be a Shakespearean actor), and how a Midwestern childhood with a sick mother changed him. Wilder explains why he became an actor and writer, and about the funny, wonderful movies he made with Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, and Harrison Ford, among many others. He candidly reveals his failures in love, and writes about the overwhelming experience of marrying comedienne Gilda Radner, as well as what finally had to happen for him to make a true and lasting commitment to another woman."

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